Gay-Straight Alliance: a growing, supportive club
Published: Friday, April 1, 2011
Updated: Monday, April 4, 2011 18:04
The Gay Straight Alliance on Wilkes Campus is rebuilding as a club that was once active and had died down. Originally referred to as the Free Spirit Club, Advisor Helen Davis took over three years ago.
"The presence on campus is stronger," she said. "We're happy with where we are."
This semester, the club has grown to having over 50 students on their mailing list with 15 to 20 showing up during club meetings. Wilkes performed a climate survey that asked questions connected to diversity.
"Students express a level of concern about their support," Davis said. "There needs to be other institutionalized support so they know they're not alone."
The GSA hopes to raise awareness through social activites they'll be doing on campus.
"It's important to know we exist," Davis said. "We need to be taken seriously."
The club is sponsoring a screening of the documentary Out in the Silence this Friday, April 8. The documentary is about the LGBT community in Oiltown, Pennsylvania, and the director will be there to answer questions after the film.
"It's going to be a big thing," Club President Alyssa Bortz said. "We're very excited about that," Davis said. The National Day of Silence is being observed on April 15, and the club hopes to raise awareness on bullying the day before by showing short films and clips from the Get Better Campaign.
The initiative of The National Day of Silence is for those participating to be silent that day in order to stop bullying due to sexual orientation, among other things.
"The club serves an essential function," Davis said. "There are needs that need to be met and we're working to meet them. We want to make sure the students are successful and happy."
While raising awareness is an important purpose for the club, they wish to offer a supportive community where students can come and be themselves without worry.
"It gives you a sense of somewhere to belong," Bortz said. "Part of the trouble (for students) is the feeling of not fitting in with anyone."
During the meetings, club members work on organizing their events and discussing social issues, but also it's about networking with others who share common interests and experiences.
"We share our stories and our troubles," Bortz said. "You know you're not the only one going through this."
Having the diverse group discuss issues and tell their stories from meeting to meeting, Davis says it really helps. "It's certainly impacted me personally," she said. "I've seen positive outcomes from our interactions. It's helped the comfort level on campus. It's a beginning."
Last semester, the GSA held a candle vigil in honor of the recent suicides caused by bullying in schools. Davis said that it helped straight students to become more involved with the club.
"Our straight allies are important to use," she said. "They want to support the group and community just as much."
The GSA hopes to expand and become as active as it has been in the past. Bortz is working on getting two speakers to visit the campus next semester.
"I would love to have more people come," she said. "Of course we're trying to be proactive, but mostly it's about having a place to come and hang out and be yourself. We encourage people to come out and anything you can get out of the club is what counts."
The club hopes to continue raising awareness on campus. "Even if you don't want to be involved with GSA or it's not relevant to your life, the main point is to be respectful of others," Bortz said. "Stop perpetuating stereotypes or using derogatory words. (These are) simple things people can do to make the environment at Wilkes better."